No more ramen: healthy foods to eat on a student’s budget


When I first started college, my friends and family from back home would often crack ramen noodle jokes. College students, who are likely to be on a tight budget, often have to resort to packaged and processed food like ramen noodles.

What many students don’t realize is that good food does not have to be extremely expensive, and when bought in moderation, can both provide nutritional value and spare your bank account from a severe hit.

Here are eight student-friendly health foods to consider buying for this upcoming semester:




Watermelon is listed as the No. 1 most cost-effective fruit to get your vitamins from in a March 7, 2011, AOL Daily Finance article by Sally Deneen. Watermelon is extremely high in vitamin A and vitamin C; just one cup will give you 18 percent and 21 percent of your daily values of each respective vitamin. Watermelon is also a good source of potassium and contains low amounts of saturated fats, cholesterol and sodium. Served cold, this sweet treat might hit the spot on a hot summer afternoon.




Spinach is abundant in dietary fiber, protein, vitamin A, vitamin C and iron. It is also very low in saturated fat and cholesterol. No wonder Popeye would chug this stuff.

While fresh spinach can be pricey, frozen spinach, on average, sells for $1.51 per pound, according to numbers compiled by the United States Department of Agriculture. Although frozen spinach is not as healthy as fresh, raw spinach, it still provides nutrients that you need for a relatively low price.


White meats 


Although there’s nothing like having a juicy ribeye steak every once in a while, the best meats for nutritional purposes are white meats like chicken and fish. Now keep in mind, fried or breaded meats don’t count as healthy because of all of the extra fat and cholesterol. When these meats are grilled or baked with light seasonings, however, they are very good sources of vitamin B6, protein, niacin and selenium and they are low in sodium. Fish is even healthier then chicken because it is a leaner meat and is often high in vitamin B12 and Omega-3 acids. According to numbers compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average price of whole chicken in June was $1.39 per pound.


Whole grains 


As a kid, I hated when my parents bought whole wheat bread; all I wanted was the fluffy Wonder Bread for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Eating whole grains, however, is extremely good for you.

Grains such as whole wheat, oats and rye are high in dietary fiber, manganese and selenium. They are also low in saturated fats, cholesterol and sodium.

Be wary of grocery store labels, though; many breads labeled as whole wheat are actually white flour bread with some wheat mixed in. Look for packages that say 100% whole wheat for the real stuff.

Oats, whether they are in the form of cereal or granola, are also very good for the heart. They are high in dietary fiber and magnesium and are low in cholesterol as well.


Healthy fats


Believe it or not, there is such a thing. Instead of indulging in fats such as sour cream or butter, look for fats that are also rich in nutrients.

Instead of cooking with vegetable oil, use olive oil, which is much lower in cholesterol, sodium and trans fat. Look for foods like avocado and peanut butter; despite their fat levels, avocado is high in dietary fiber and vitamin C, while peanut butter is also an excellent source of protein.

A slice of avocado or a spoon of peanut butter will go a lot farther than a Twinkie.


Low-fat dairy


Selecting low-fat dairy options can give you essential nutrients without the naturally occurring milk fat. Picking dairy foods like Greek yogurt, which is lower in fat than regular yogurt, or low-fat milk like skim, 1 or 2 percent can help you gain the calcium.

This is especially important for women to keep in mind, due to higher rates of osteoporosis, a disease in which bones slowly weaken.

Low-fat cheeses, such as skim mozzarella, can also provide a healthy snack.




This citrusy delight is an easy way to get a lot of vital nutrients on a daily basis. Oranges offer high levels of potassium and fiber. One cup of orange slices also provides 160 percent of your daily value of vitamin C.




Plums ranked second on the list of fruits as the best buy for its nutritional value, according to the same article by AOL Daily Finance. Plums are a very good source of vitamin A, vitamin C and dietary fiber, and are low in saturated fats, sodium and cholesterol. According to numbers compiled by the USDA, the average price of plums is $1.24 per pound.


Andy Rao is a junior in finance and accounting. Please send comments to